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JERUSALEM - With speculations about an Israeli ground invasion into the Gaza Strip still running high, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed Saturday that they have assassinated Osama Kadi, a Hamas commander in charge of the weapon-smuggling tunnels in Gaza.
Kadi, who is in charge of smuggling operations and tunnel management, was the second top Hamas militant to be killed on Saturday, along with Mohammad Kalab, a senior member of the Hamas air-defense system.
According to the IDF spokesperson unit, the IDF and the Israeli Security Agency have targeted more than a dozen militants, as well as weapon caches and missile launch pads, overall raiding 950 targets in the enclave, during the four days of Operation Pillar of Defense.
A Palestinian protester throws a stone at Israeli security forces during clashes against Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip, at Hawara checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus, Nov 17, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]
The fighting between Israel and the Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip kept escalating over the weekend, as more rockets were launched towards Tel Aviv, one of which was intercepted by an Iron Dome anti-missile battery deployed in the area early Saturday.
The attack marked the third of its kind in three days against the central city, which came under rocket attacks for the first time since the 1991 Gulf War.
About 200 Israeli left-wing demonstrators on Saturday evening protested against the war and the possibility of expanding the operation into a full-blown invasion into the Gaza Strip.
On Friday, the Israeli cabinet approved the draft of 75,000 reservists and several tens of thousands have already been drafted and mobilized south-bound towards the Gaza border.
"We don't want to see another war in Gaza. I also don't think we should accept having rockets fall over our southern communities, but I just don't think that war is the answer," Yuval Gat, 29, from Tel Aviv, told Xinhua Saturday.
"I believe that war hadn't gotten us anything. We hit them, they hit us, eventually it will come to an end at a certain price, and then after a little while will be at the same cycle all over again," he added.
"I think it's time the politicians think long-term and understand that the caches of weapons will grow back again and more people who suffer from this war in Gaza will grow to hate Israel and be the next Jaabari we'll have to assassinate," he said.
More than 650 rockets overall were launched in the past four days towards Israel, mainly towards southern communities including big cities like Be'er Sheva, Ashdod, Netivot and Ofakim.
Iron Dome batteries there intercepted about 225 rockets. Saturday, five people were lightly wounded by shrapnel after a missile directly hit a house in Ashdod Saturday noon.
Speculations over whether Israel will invade Gaza have grown due to the mobilization of forces towards the strip. Members from the international communities are working to achieve a lull in the fighting between Israel and Gaza militants.
IDF spokesperson Yoav Mordechai said Israel will continue with its offensive until it achieves its goals of crippling the militants' infrastructure in Gaza and restoring quiet to the southern communities of Israel.
"This is not a matter of one or two days," he said at a press briefing Saturday evening, adding that the IDF destroyed most of the long-range Fajr-5 missiles in Gaza but there is still a "huge arsenal of missiles."
Health ministry of the Hamas authority in Gaza said Saturday night that the Israeli operation has left 45 Palestinians killed and around 500 injured.